Tag Archives: John McCain

Tough to bid farewell to icons

Americans have had a busy year bidding farewell to iconic public figures.

We’ve just bid adieu to our nation’s 41st president, George H.W. Bush, who in just a few days will be laid to rest next to his beloved wife, Barbara, and their first-born child, who died at age 3.

We have given President Bush the kind of sendoff he deserves, but which reportedly he would have disliked intensely. His son, Neil, noted that “Dad” would be embarrassed by “all the nice things people have said about him.” Nice things?

Good, gracious. Those “nice things” do not even begin to do justice to the service Bush 41 gave to the nation he cherished. It has been well-chronicled certainly since his death this past Friday at age 94. It was well-known already.

I have declared my belief on numerous occasions that Bush 41 was arguably the most qualified man ever to hold the office of president. As I have listened to the tributes, that belief has been shored up.

As for his wife, “Bar,” she left us in the spring. She and George H.W. Bush shared a 73-year marriage that produced six children. Five of them grew to adulthood, with their first child, Robin, dying as a toddler of leukemia.

Barbara Bush didn’t aspire to pursue a career other than being a homemaker and devoted spouse to a great man. She, however, achieved greatness, too, as first lady. She promoted literacy and always, without fail, carried herself with dignity and grace.

The tributes paid to the former first lady served as well to remind us that love truly does conquer all.

As for the third icon, he ventured to the gates of hell and returned to build a political life devoted to serving his nation.

John McCain died in August of brain cancer. He served for three decades as a U.S. senator from Arizona. And, yes, he was a bona fide, true-blue war hero. He was shot down over Hanoi during the Vietnam War, taken captive and held as a POW for more than five years.

Donald J. Trump sought to disparage McCain’s war service by denigrating his hero status, how he was a “hero only because he was captured. I like people who aren’t captured.” That despicable utterance stands as a testament to the complete absence of character from the man who uttered it.

McCain would serve in the House and then the Senate with distinction. He rose to the level of icon during his years in Congress. His years as a POW elevated his profile immediately upon being elected to Congress.

He ran twice for president, losing the Republican nomination in 2000 to Texas Gov. George W. Bush and then losing the 2008 election to Sen. Barack H. Obama.

All three of these individuals sought in their ways to achieve a “more perfect Union.” They are worthy of every single ounce of tribute they have received.

Sauce for the gander?

Some members of the far right wing mainstream media are just appalled, I tell ya, that individuals who seek to honor the life and service of the late President George H.W. Bush are taking pot shots at one of his successors, Donald John Trump.

How dare they say those things and besmirch the tributes to Bush 41? I think I know how those Trump critics justify the criticism.

They suggest — and I concur with them — that Donald Trump has shown no reluctance to criticize political foes while they are stricken with life-threatening illness. I am thinking specifically of the late Sen. John McCain, who died in August after battling brain cancer. Did the president let up on his anger over McCain’s “no” vote against repealing the Affordable Care Act? He did not.

He mocked a New York Times reporter’s physical disability; he took dead aim at a Gold Star family whose son died in Iraq because they criticized him at the 2016 Democratic National Convention.

I believe that lies at the crux of the belief among those who choose to honor President Bush. They remember his decency, his grace, his humility, his empathy, his deep and fundamental understanding of public service; indeed, they honor his seven decades of public service, starting with his combat duty during World War II as the Navy’s youngest fighter pilot.

It is impossible to avoid drawing comparisons between President Bush and his presidential successor. What’s more, Donald Trump’s own record of disparaging others is loaded with examples of precisely the lack of the qualities that George H.W. Bush exhibited during his long and distinguished public life.

The pundits and commentators on the far right are entitled to express their outrage over the treatment that Trump is getting at this moment. Let ’em gripe.

Just remember the old “sauce for the goose and sauce for the gander” refrain. What’s good for one is certainly good for the other.

How low can POTUS go?

It is fair to wonder about the depths of Donald J. Trump’s progression as a politician. To the point: Just how low is too low and how do we know if he has hit rock bottom?

I do not believe, based on the record of low points he has acquired to date, that we have found the bottom of the abyss.

My goodness, this individual has scored so many low points it’s hard to keep score. Some highlights/lowlights:

  • He said the late U.S. Sen. John McCain was a “war hero only because he was captured” during the Vietnam War.
  • Trump denigrated a Gold Star family because of their Arab ethnicity; their son, an Army officer, died in battle in Iraq. The parents had the temerity to criticize Trump during the Democratic National Convention in 2016.
  • Trump mocked a New York Times reporter, mimicking his actions caused by a severe neuromuscular disease.
  • The candidate admitted to a TV host that he grabbed women by their genitals because of his “celebrity” status.
  • Trump has lied repeatedly, gratuitously and without any sense of shame.
  • The president just recently criticized the Special Operations Command chief — retired Admiral William McRaven, a battle-tested SEAL — for failing to kill Osama bin Laden “much sooner” than commandos did.

I know I have missed some examples, but you get the idea.

One might surmise, probably correctly, that any one or two of those incidents would doom someone’s political aspirations. Donald Trump, though, not only has survived, he has managed to fire up his political base. The roughly 38 percent of Americans who stand by their man do so because he “tells it like it is,” or he sticks it in the establishment’s eye, or speaks their language.

What’s more, this guy doesn’t care that the rest of the country finds his statements, behavior and demeanor repugnant to the high office he occupies.

How low can this guy go? I think he’s got some more space to fall before he finds the bottom of the pit.

He once said he could “shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose any votes.” I believe he is correct. Surely he knows better than to test that theory. Doesn’t he?

What if Obama had done any of this?

“We should be intellectually honest here at this table that if President Obama had missed Veterans Day or missed the Armistice ceremony in France for the 100th anniversary of World War I, my head would have exploded right here on this table in front of all of you.”

So said Meghan McCain, daughter of the late, great Republican U.S. senator, John McCain, and a co-host of the TV show “The View.”

I believe she speaks for a lot of Americans who are dismayed, disgusted and so very disappointed in recent actions and remarks by Donald J. Trump, the president of the United States.

So many on the right and the far right have been strangely silent regarding the president’s recent action — or inaction — in Europe. He declined to attend a ceremony in France honoring the Americans who fell during World War I, then skipped Veterans Day services at Arlington National Cemetery.

Now, to his credit, the president did express some regret at failing to show for the Arlington cemetery event. That doesn’t excuse what he declined to do in the moment.

Couple all of that with what he has said in recent days about the raid that killed Osama bin Laden and the disparaging he has leveled at the Navy admiral, William McRaven, who coordinated the May 2011 assault and you have even more reason for “heads to explode.”

They aren’t. Except for Meghan McCain, a self-described political conservative.

Yes, just try to imagine the reaction had all of this come from a liberal Democrat. It is pointless to suggest how progressives, such as yours truly, would react had any of this occurred on Barack Obama’s watch. Thankfully, I don’t recall it ever happening prior to Donald Trump becoming president.

I do believe Meghan McCain’s assertion about her own noggin “exploding” on national TV.

Arizona’s McSally loses, concedes, all is well and good

They’re fussin’ and fightin’ in Florida and Georgia. A Democratic candidate for Florida governor concedes, then takes it back while they recount ballots. A Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, also in Florida, accuses his Democratic foe of fraud and election theft. The Democratic candidate for Georgia governor refuses to concede, even though the vote totals against her are piling up.

Meanwhile, way out yonder in Arizona, two candidates fought long and hard for a U.S. Senate seat now held by Republican Jeff Flake, who didn’t seek re-election. It came down to counting mail-in ballots. The Democrat, U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, won by a narrow margin. The Republican, fellow Rep. Martha McSally, did the noble thing and conceded. She wished her opponent “success.” The fight was over.

Oh, but wait. McSally might have an ulterior motive in showing such grace. Do not misunderstand me. I applaud her for taking the path she took.

GOP Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey might be appointing a successor to Sen. Jon Kyl, whom Ducey appointed to succeed the late John McCain in the Senate, Kyl might not want to serve the full term. He might retire from the Senate yet again; he served there once already.

McSally might be positioning herself for an appointment. That’s the buzz out west. Whatever the motive, McSally’s quiet and dignified concession — juxtaposed to what we’re witnessing back east — is a refreshing thing to witness.

Sen. Kyl is his own man, however …

It didn’t take Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey long to fill an important seat in the U.S. Senate.

He picked a one-time former senator, Jon Kyl, to succeed the late, great John McCain in the upper congressional chamber. It’s a solid, mainstream selection, with one conservative Republican succeeding another conservative Republican.

A part of me, though, wishes something different from Sen. Kyl, who rejoins his colleagues.

Sen. McCain, who died on Aug. 25 of brain cancer, was known as a maverick. He was courageous and unafraid to challenge partisan orthodoxy within his own GOP. He incurred the wrath of far-right conservatives who actually, with a straight face, accused McCain of being a RINO, a Republican in Name Only; such a preposterous notion is laughable on its face.

McCain sought a return to “regular order” in the Senate. He despaired of the cult of personality that has taken over many within the Republican Party, which has become the Party of Donald Trump. His clashes with the president — stemming in part from the insults and the disparagement that Donald Trump would hurl at McCain — became legendary.

My hope for Jon Kyl is that he follows his predecessor’s lead. He isn’t known to be as feisty as McCain could be when the occasion presented itself. Then again, he is occupying a seat once held by a man who became legendary in the Senate for the battles he fought with Democrats and Republican.

I realize fully that Sen. Kyl is his own man. He also works for Arizona’s 7 million residents. Perhaps many of them will express their view that Sen. Kyl pick up where Sen. McCain left off.

May the new senator give the president all the hell he deserves.

How will we remember POTUS No. 45?

They have laid John McCain to rest at the U.S. Naval Academy.

The late U.S. senator’s farewell was fitting in every way imaginable. One of the eulogies given in honor of the Arizona Republican accompanies this blog post.

I know others have thought — or perhaps even said it out loud — the question I am about to pose: How is the nation going to remember the current occupant of the White House?

I am trying to imagine someone standing in a church pulpit, be he or she a Democrat or Republican, saying the kinds of things about the current president that were said about Sen. McCain.

It’s remarkable that to me that such respect, admiration would come from leaders of both major parties. They all said essentially the same thing about Sen. McCain: agree or disagree with him, the full measure of this man cannot be quantified in simply political terms. As President Obama noted during his eulogy to Sen. McCain, he was “prepared to die” in service to this country.

I want to bring the current president into this discussion because I know — and you know it, too — that others have thought to themselves about how POTUS No. 45 is going to be remembered when the time comes for us to say farewell.

I am one American who cannot wrap my arms around such a thing.

Meghan McCain had every right to say what she said

I want to declare one more time — and I hope it’s the final time — that Megan McCain didn’t say a single inappropriate thing while paying tribute to her father, the late Sen. John McCain.

I was proud of the courage and steely fortitude she demonstrated while standing in the National Cathedral pulpit to honor the life and heroic public service that her beloved father exhibited for more than six decades.

Listen to her remarks.

And yet to hear some of the gripes from Donald J. Trump’s loyal followers who say she was too cruel, too mean and too vengeful in her remarks simply galls me beyond measure.

She compared her father’s “suffering” while serving the nation to those who lived — at that time — existences of “privilege and comfort.” Yes, she was referring to the president of the United States, who was pointedly not invited to the private funeral in Washington, D.C. Sen. McCain and Trump had serious differences that went far beyond mere policy disagreements. It was personal and visceral.

Think, too, for a moment about the source of the criticism toward Megan McCain. It comes from supporters of a man who (a) has said some hateful and insulting things about his foes and (b) has never apologized for anything he ever says. Trump had the utter gall to say that McCain — a Vietnam War prisoner — was a “war hero because he was captured. I like people who aren’t captured, OK?”

Well, I happen to like presidents who don’t utter crass and cruel statements about a legitimate American war hero.

The 62 million Americans who voted for Trump in 2016 knew what they were getting when they cast their votes for the one-time reality TV celebrity/serial philanderer/real estate mogul/pathological liar.

Perhaps their criticism of Meghan McCain’s remarks is meant to disguise their own regret for casting their ballots for Donald Trump in the first place … not that many of them will ever acknowledge it publicly. Think of it: That, too, mirrors the attitude demonstrated by their champion, the president of the United States.

Meghan McCain spoke from her broken heart. She also spoke the truth in her father’s honor.

As former Sen. Joe Lieberman, the Connecticut Democrat, and one of the late senator’s dearest friends, said of Meghan McCain: She clearly “is her father’s daughter.”

Sen. McCain got the sendoff he deserves

It’s been said over the past few days that the pomp, circumstance and pageantry associated with U.S. Sen. John McCain’s funeral is reserved usually for presidents of the United States.

Well, to my mind, the senator deserved all the tributes — and the accompanying ritual — that he received.

The great man’s six decades of public service all alone was worthy of the salute bestowed to him.

The eulogies delivered in Phoenix by former Vice President Joe Biden and in Washington by former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush spoke volumes about the nature of the ceremony that the late U.S. senator planned for his farewell.

It was Vice President Biden who introduced himself to the crowd assembled by saying, “I’m Joe Biden; I am a Democrat: and I loved John McCain.”

And so it went as the nation poured out its heart to memorialize the iconic Republican lawmaker.

I was glad that the ceremonies didn’t dwell too heavily on the single aspect of McCain’s service to the country — his five-plus years as a Vietnam War prisoner. But it was there. It was impossible to set that part of his sacrifice aside.

The last public figure to get this kind of sendoff was President Ford, who died in 2006. Then it fell to others to deliver such a heartfelt salute to a man who fought a valiant battle against disease.

He already had battled his wartime captors. And he won that fight.

Sen. John McCain was the rare public figure who emerged even bigger after he lost the toughest political battles of his life: his unsuccessful campaign for the GOP presidential nomination in 2000 and his losing bid for the office in the 2008 election against Barack Obama.

With that, the nation has bid farewell to a gallant warrior and a true-blue American hero.

May this sometimes irascible man rest in peace.

As he said of himself, Sen. McCain “lived and died a proud American.”

The country he loved and served with honor and distinction is better because he came along.

The message was clear, as was its intended target

I am quite certain that Donald John Trump is going to be pretty steamed when he catches up with the events of today.

The president was pointedly not invited to the late Sen. John McCain’s funeral. He and McCain had differences that went far beyond policy matters. Trump disparaged McCain’s heroism during the Vietnam War, when he was held captive as a POW for more than five years. When the senator became stricken with the brain cancer that took his life the other day, Trump continued to harangue against the senator’s “no” vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

McCain took it personally.

The senator did invite Trump’s two immediate predecessors: Presidents Obama and George W. Bush. Both men delivered touching eulogies honoring the life and public service career of the senator.

Both men also delivered messages in tribute to Sen. McCain that could not be mistaken for what they were intended to do: to remind us of the pettiness, petulance and small-mindedness that has infected the White House since Donald Trump became president.

President Bush said McCain didn’t tolerate “swaggering despots.” President Obama praised McCain for calling on Americans to be “bigger” than the politics that are based on “fear.”

“So much of our politics, public life, public discourse can seem small and mean and petty, trafficking in bombast, and insult, and phony controversies, and manufactured outrage,” Obama said at the National Cathedral.

You know who the 44th president had in mind. So does the current president of the United States.

But, hey … if the shoe fits.